UNDER SIEGE 2: DARK TERRITORY
Under Siege 2: Dark Territory is directed by Geoff Murphy, the New Zealander who made fine films like the anarchic road trip film Goodbye Pork Pie (1980), the Maori Wars epic Utu (1983) and the science-fiction film The Quiet Earth (1985), before being swallowed up by the American mainstream and consigned to churning out dreary fodder like Young Guns II (1990), Freejack (1992), this and Fortress 2: Re-Entry (2000). Certainly, Under Siege 2: Dark Territory has some good action sequences with Steven Seagal hanging on a rope on the side of a cliff and jumping off to tackle an abseiling mercenary; scenes climbing down the sides of trains as they cross bridges; and an exciting climactic sequence with Seagal running to get off the train as it starts going off a bridge. The film also eagerly picked up on the new technology of the 1990s stealth bombers, portable fax phones, CD-roms, particle beam weapons and the Strategic Defence Initiative, information terrorism with confident assurance (wherein, of course, comes the science-fictional rub).
I have to admit that personally I cannot stand Steven Seagal as an actor he represents too much of the macho brutality and lacks any of the more likable qualities that Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger present on screen. Not to mention the guys ego his interviews come with grandiose claims about his own invincibility and almost certainly exaggerated claims to working as a CIA operative and being the first gaijin to operate an aikido dojo in Japan. Seagals films tend to emphasize sadistically nasty dispatch of his opponents here he willingly snaps victims necks, bends fingers backwards and there are scenes of bodies going under the wheels of the train while still alive and so on. The net effect is ugly the action scenes have no beauty, only a sense of sadistic triumph. Seagal also cannot act something that has never been a necessary requirement for an action film star his sole expression seems to consist of narrowing his eyes to achieve a single-minded deadliness. He clearly realizes his deficiencies and attempts to leaven his woodenness here by developing a sense of humour and by giving himself a niece (played by an unknown teenage Katherine Heigl) for the sole purpose of allowing himself to display affection all with ghastly results.
Eric Bogosian, who is otherwise a fine one-act playwright/performer, gives an atrociously over-the-top performance. There is far better supporting villainy from Everett McGill who plays with a stony coldness that is effective he has one amusing scene demonstrating his toughness by using pepper spray as a breath freshener.
One complaint about the title is that the Dark Territory is almost of no relevance to the film. The dark territory we do see consists solely of an abandoned mine works briefly glimpsed outside the window of the train.